February 7, 2012
The Weeaboo Dilemma Explained with Hip Hop and Top 40 Radio

When it comes down to it, what really offends the internet about Weeaboos?

No really, think about it. What TRULY OFFENDS the internet when it comes to weeaboos?

The answer will become clear, as we study the examples of The Beastie Boys and Kesha in respect to their musical cultures.

The Beastie Boys are an interesting case indeed when explored, since they consist of some guys from Jewish backgrounds performing hip hop music. The connection between New York Jewish culture and the hip hop culture may seem incongruous, but remember, Ralph Bakshi, a Jewish cartoonist created Coonskin, an adult animation about black men in an urban setting, intended to parody Song Of The South. Initially outrageous to the black community, it was later approved by the NAACP for being “difficult satire” but more likely it was enjoyed by multiple audience demographics by its lack of suckage.

With the dominoes falling from animation to hip hop from Bakshi, the implications between the Beastie Boy’s success in sampling makes the comparison to weeaboos who embrace otaku culture and bringing their own spin to it all too clear. The problem of emulating other cultural mediums as one’s own truly becomes a challenge and opportunity to artists when one doesn’t simply copy, but uses this visual or musical culture in a way that redefines the medium it appears in. Other cases of this pop cultural crossover is Daft Punk’s Interstella 5555, a Daft Punk anime music movie made by an actual Japanese anime director of note to assure it would be quality.

When we enter the case of Kesha, we must remember that even The Beastie Boys have been guilty of juvenile hits. Their first album, License To Ill, was regarded as more juvenile than their follow-up, mature LP, Paul’s Boutique. The Beastie Boys have truly expressed dedication to their craft, their use of samples increasing with their quality.

These samples give us hope that a music or visual culture not normally associated with a different culture whose members decide to make something like it and it will find a wide audience - even being accepted by the originators of the culture the newcomer artists contribute to (The Beastie Boys’ Judaism is often mentioned in their biographical details, a culture alien to the African American culture of the day but as was discovered, was not mutually exclusive).

And this is why, we must remember not to be completely dismissive of Kesha. Kesha, for instance, is a person who uses hip hop influences in a female context. I will remind you, in the mainstream pop radio Top 40, female rapper or hip hop vocalists are quite rare, unlike other genres like Indie-Rock or Country Music (Taylor Swift says hi).

Kesha, while a controversial figure, must be seen in the light of the culture she came from, our era, if you will. There are plenty of women I know who are similar in aesthetic taste and fashion to Kesha, and yet society unfairly rejects their individual expression this time because of gender rather than race. The Rap Critic has often stated that Kesha’s “white girl using ebonics” deal is grating, but not unlike this is white girls using Japanese Harajuku slang or Japanese words in an English language sentence.

It is somewhat disheartening to see a cultural language mangled by a grammatical nightmare dreamt up by somebody whiter than H.P. Lovecraft, but what bothers me is that while this egregiousness is clearly heinous, the motive for attempting to use said language creatively is often discounted by male critics who may or may not unconsciously debunk the worth of the artist based on a combination of Anglo-Saxon race AND female gender. This is not good for the artistic community at large, mainly because it has often been ignored that while female creativity manifests in ways men sometimes don’t understand, it MAY ALSO CONTAIN ITEMS OF WORTH TO BOTH GENDERS AND SHOULD BE CELEBRATED FOR THE SAKE OF IMPROVING CULTURE IN GENERAL.

One may dislike Kesha’s music, but too often do I see critiques of her based on her gender and appearance, not her actual music. Music does not contain fashion choices unless it’s alluded to like the above Rap Critic review of a similar artist, but gender does play a large role in female artist’s expression. It is an identity that is not the default, not a disability (physical or mental) considered unusual but rather a biological necessity.

Women on the other hand to men have to deal with much more visible prejudice based on being women regardless of race or culture in every corner of the world, and it’s not just an issue that affects one or another culture of women. It’s EVERYWHERE. It cannot be unseen or swept under the rug because sexual dimorphism is blatantly obvious.

Where am I going with this? The core issue of why Weeaboos might be reviled by the internet and culture at large may not just be due to language proficiency in Japanese, nor the quality of new art inspired by Japan’s visual cultures (IMPORTANT, visual cultures are separate to racial cultures, because visual cultures are not confined to one ethnic group whereas genetics are. This is why Eminem is a white rapper and yet respected because he doesn’t pretend to be black whereas Vanilla Ice is reviled for doing the exact opposite back in the day. Eminem RESPECTS the culture he adds to, rather than degrading both the culture he contributed to and his own like Vanilla).

Osamu Tezuka in interviews stated that anime "was bigger than Japan," and "wanted the world to enjoy it".* That alone is a big steak through the heart of the perception of anime fans as being an aberration, when the bloody God of Manga outright makes a Papal Bull like that saying anime’s for the world.

The core problem with the Weeaboo Dilemma is unwritten rules that art and culture from certain nations cannot be enjoyed and contributed to by persons of other nations, which is unsettling in itself but the constant shaming of these people seems to denote disdain to not only these maturing members of youth cultures which will form more mature identities later versus the grammar-mangling teenagers they are now - but to anybody who dares like something from another culture enough to want to make a part of it themselves. This isn’t just discriminatory, it’s racist to everybody involved in their scenes respectively. Culture must evolve on its own terms, and change is sometimes brought by squeeing mall teens who eat Pocky but may one day make something just as iconic. You need to have a Vanilla Ice moment before you can be Eminem.

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*Quote from special features of Tezuka: The Experimental Films, released by Madman Entertainment in Australia.

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